With New Hope’s grand road being constructed, many cheap inns and taverns have popped up all over the country side. Although many were hastily made, most of them have all the comforts of home. However, this story doesn’t take place in one of these new, freshly painted inns. This one finds its start just outside of an older inn. This inn has seen far better days. Its paint was chipped, its windows didn’t close all the way, its door creaked loudly when someone walked in, as did its floor. Hell, the list goes on and on. However, even with its laundry list of problems, it boasted fair prices for a room and meals. It was these prices that caught the attention of Wren Duncan.
Wren Duncan, a younger female human with long amber hair. She was dressed in well-worn traveling clothes, a short sword on her side, and a bag on her back that was weighed down with something that jingled with every step. She also was wearing a large cloak to hide all the cuts and bruises she had. Within her coin pouch she had a modest amount of silver. She was paid this “modest amount” for her help at Riverhead. Sadly for her, in doing so she shredded her armor, a lighter chainmail she had bought only the month before. It now had missing rings and long rips making it unusable. It weighed her bag down on her back. She could fix it, if she could find a forge to make new rings for it.
She had many new battle wounds as well. Every painful step was a reminder of what had happened. As she thought about it, flashes of the battle would come and go. She would see a smaller, heavily armored Mordok from time to time. This one, and the others that looked like it, destroyed her armor and gave her many deep cuts on her arms and one deep gash on her left leg. Other times it was the Mordok Shaman. This one did nothing to her while it blew up other shields and went after the others in the shield line. However, during its last moments, it singled her out and threw a death bolt at her leg. She had almost jumped it, but sadly it struck her in the foot. This bolt almost blew her foot right off. Thankfully she was pulled from the line and healed. Well, enough to get back on the line.
Even after the shaman, she wasn’t done getting hurt. She tried to play it a bit safer and help the rear line; it was there that another Mordok gave her another wound. The Mordok shot her with its bow and without a shield she had little chance to block. With all her already inflicted wounds, she couldn’t move like she normally could. Otherwise, she was sure she could have dodged it. This one went into her other, still hurting, arm. After that last wound, the battle lasted a bit longer and the Mordok were pushed back. All in all, not that great of a battle for her. She was then paid and sent on her way. Even worse for her was that this “fair pay” wasn’t enough to repair her armor, patch her up, and put a temporary roof over her head. She was only paid enough for one of these things. Armor could be patched up later and wounds would heal. But sleeping outside, even close to the road could lead to getting robbed or worse–death. So she found her way to one of the cheaper inns close to New Hope.
This inn was an older looking one, it had a rundown look to it. The windows were a bit drafty, the roof had a leak near the back corner of the bar, and whole place had a faint musty smell to it, most likely from the leak. However, even with its faults, its food was pretty good, and its rooms were warm. The owner of the inn was an older human male named James Banding. He had short gray hair with gray stubble. He gave her a good deal for a week’s stay. The cost also included food and drink, but not alcoholic drinks. All he asked was she didn’t cause any trouble. She knew this was going to be easy, as she didn’t want to interact with anyone. So long as they left her alone, she knew she would be fine.
She paid to stay in this inn for the week, in that week she stayed to herself. Most of her time was spent nursing her wounds, as well as watching the inn’s travelers come and go. The travelers were a mix of humans and ulven, most of them workers hired to work on New Hope’s grand road. They kept to themselves and most of them didn’t try to talk to her. The few that did were drunk and as they tried to talk her up, they were met with an emotionless stare, little (if any) words, and under the table she would quarter draw her short sword. From there they would leave and she would sheath her blade. She didn’t want to talk to any of them. She was in pain from her wounds and had no desire to be picked up by any of these drunks. James took note of this and made sure to keep the workers away from her. It wasn’t until the last day of her week that anything of note happened.
The day began like any other. She changed her bandages, washed up, came down from her room, and ordered breakfast from James. From there she watched the many groups leave to work on the road. About mid-day, a heavy downpour began. This downpour halted the work on the road. The workers were sent home with the day off. They used this “day off” to get an early start to drinking. Wren left her seat at the bar and moved to a table in the far corner of the inn’s bar, hoping the leak in the roof would deter the drunks from trying to chat with her. About an hour into the drinking, the door to the inn opened and a thin man wearing a heavy traveling cloak walked in. He took a few steps in, lowered the hood of his cloak, and looked around the inn’s bar. With the hood off, she could tell that the man was a Syndar. His short brown hair was mostly dry, despite the heavy rains. His green eyes looked around the tavern, as if he was looking for someone. After a few seconds of looking around the tavern, his eyes found her, and a few moments later he began to walk to her table. As he did, her hand went straight to her sword at her side. When he made it to her table he asked, “Miss Duncan?”
She looked up at him and nodded. She wondered how he knew her name and why he was looking for her, all the while, not taking her eyes off him. The Syndar then reached for his pouch and pulled out a single letter.
“Miss Duncan, I have a letter for you from The Commander of The Rangers,” he said. He put the letter down in front of her, turned, and walked out. On his way out, Wren swore she heard him mutter, “What the hell’s wrong with that human?” under his breath, but she could have misheard him. It wasn’t long after he had left that she took her hand off her sword. She then slowly opened the letter. It was a simple folded parchment closed with green wax. The wax was sealed with the letter “R”. She opened it with a small knife, inside was a short message:
To Wren Duncan,
I was told you were one of the defenders at the battle for Riverhead. I was also informed that you are not with any of the known factions that were there to defend them. I’m curious as to why you were there. If it is something as simple as coin, if you are trying to make a name for yourself, or maybe you don’t even know yourself.
I could help you with one of these or more. If you’re interested, then make your way to Crow’s Landing and we can speak more on this matter.
Tobias Del’Green, Commander of the Rangers
She read the letter a few times, not really knowing what to think. She knew why she had gone to Riverhead. They needed help and she could use the coin, it was as simple as that. The offer, however, did interest her. She had heard a few things about the Rangers. People had been talking about the hooded men and women of the Crow’s Landing settlement. Things like; their talent for finding lost things in the woods, their willingness to help where they could, and also their hatred for bandits. She had also heard a few bad things about them as well, but she didn’t have a lot of other options at the moment. Her leg and side weren’t getting any better and she had no way to pay for the wounds. At the very least, she might be able to get some paid work from this Ranger. That and she no longer had enough silver to stay in this inn.
She gathered her things from her room and dropped off the key to James. Pulling her cloak closer around her, she made her way out into the rain. Before she made it all the way out the door, James was at her side with a small bag. He handed it to her saying, “Here’s some food for the road and something for your wounds.” she thanked him and began again. Every step she took was a painful one. Her leg was badly infected as was her side. However, lucky for her, Crow’s Landing was only two days away from the inn she was staying at. Also, the road from her to it was already done, so at least it should be an easy walk, she thought.
It was about midday when she started to realize she needed a walking stick. However, she was in a wide open plain without any trees in site.
A few hours later as the sun started to set, she saw a forest off in the distance. This forest meant she was about a fourth of the way to Crow’s Landing. Her wounds had slowed her down a lot more than she had first thought they would. She walked a few yards into the now much darker looking forest. With one hand on her sword, she looked for a young enough sapling that she could use. A few more yards and she found a young ash sapling that would do the job. She drew her sword and with a few hard swings she had her stick. She cut off the branches and eyed her work. It was about this time when she heard a snap off in the darker parts of the forest. Holding her sword out in front of herself, she spun around trying to see where the sound came from. All the while, cursing herself for coming into the woods without armor or a light.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” she muttered under her breath, not seeing where the sound came from. With one hand tightly gripping her sword and the other holding her new walking stick, as fast as her wounds would allow her to, she made her way out of the forest and away from the ensuing danger. All the while not seeing or hearing whatever made the noise. A few panicked minutes went by as she got back to the road. Once on the road and with a few miles between her and the forest, she finally put her sword away.
Breathing heavily, she pulled her cloak closer to her body in attempt to keep warm. Night was getting closer and she was dead tired. She found a decent opening a few yards off the path and was starting to find the driest spot she could. After a bit of shifting around rocks, sticks, and leaves, she made a small shelter. Leaning her walking stick against the side of the shelter and setting her bag of broken armor down; she lied down to rest. Even with the storm raging on, her eyes felt heavy and it wasn’t long before she fell into an uneasy sleep.
She awoke a while later to immense pain from her leg. With much care, she moved her leg up so she could see the bandage. She saw the bandage was now a dark brown and was giving off a bad smell. She slowly removed the bandage to put on another. The act of pulling the old one off hurt more than when she first got it. With the bandage now off, she was able to easily see how infected it had gotten. Looking down at her cut she wondered what she could do. She still had over a day’s walk on the road and there was no way she was going to make it with her leg this bad. Biting down on her lip, she reached for her bag and felt around for another bandage. She then felt the bag that James gave her. She had forgotten all about it until now. Pulling it out and looking through what he had gifted her with. She found thicker bandages with some kind of grease on it, some hard tack, and a small bottle of something. Judging by the smell, it was something hard. Painfully smiling to herself, she knew what she had to do. She arranged her “healers kit” and using her knife, she cut into her wound. The pain was too much and she had to stop. Breathing hard, she knew things would only get worse. She drank a bit of the bottle (it was rancid), bit down on a bit of her cloak, and cut away at it again. Sweat dripped off her forehead. She managed to get most of the (in her mind) infected bits off. Putting her knife back, she poured the rest of the bottle onto the now open wound. Even through the thick cloak, an audible scream could be heard. Working through the pain, she wrapped the cut with the new bandages. With this done, she went limp.
Breathing hard, she waited for the pain to go away or at least lessen. A few moments went by and the pain did start to subside. She didn’t know if it was from getting cleaned or the rancid drink, but that didn’t matter. She needed to get to Crow’s Landing. With the help of her walking stick, she began to head out again. She couldn’t move her leg at all and it was only because of her stick that she was able to walk at all. Her speed was minuscule. Thankfully the storm was letting up a bit. The rain was still falling, but it was no longer obstructing her view of the road. She still felt dead tired and wanted nothing more than to fall into a warm bed. She limped on and a few more hours went by. Sweat kept dripping from her and she knew normally she wouldn’t have been this exhausted. She looked to her bandaged leg and saw that it was red with her blood. Breathing heavily, she limped ever faster. A few more hours of pain and a red tunnel soon took over her vision. She got a few more steps before falling. Hitting the ground hard, she tried to crawl, but her body had given her more than it had. Soon the red vision turned black.
When she came to, she was no longer out on the road. She was in a mostly white room full of beds. As she looked around she saw two humans, one male the other female, and an ulven. The female had a white shirt with a green vest over it. She was shorter with shoulder length dark brown hair. The human male was of average height with short light brown hair. He was wearing a short sleeve hooded tunic. The male ulven was also of average height, had short dark brown hair, and a scar going down his left eye. He was wearing a long leather sleeveless coat with a green hooded tunic. The two humans were quietly meditating, the ulven was just standing nearby as if he was watching over them. Her movement didn’t go unnoticed and the ulven shifted his gaze from the two meditating to herself.
“Good afternoon Miss Duncan, I trust you are feeling better?” Before she could reply, the two humans got up. The female spoke first.
“She is all healed up, as are we. I’ll help Puckerman back to his house.” The other human, she was guessing Puckerman, replied clearly annoyed.
“I don’t need help Kathena, I can make it home just fine.” After he said this he started to limp away. She could tell there was something really wrong with his leg, but before she could get a good look at it, Kathena got up next to him and forcefully helped him to his house. With them gone, it was just her and the ulven. For a few moments he just looked out in the direction that Puckerman and Kathena went.
After a bit he spoke again. “Miss Duncan, how are you feeling?” As he said this he looked at her. And seeing his eyes she began to glare at him.
After a bit he seemed to notice and spoke again, “I know my eyes are a bit strange, but they only just started to change colors.” She then looked away, realizing he wasn’t a threat.
“I got your letter,” she finally replied.
“And on the way here you got attacked by?” he asked.
“No, these are from the battle back in Riverhead.” she replied.
“Really, so that’s why they were so infected. Why didn’t you get them healed?” he said.
She didn’t reply to that and simply looked around for her things. He picked up on that and said, “If you don’t want to stay, your things are in front of this bed. However, I hope you would give my offer some thought.”
“What’s your offer?” she asked.
“You would have died out on the road were it not for my guards, they found you while patrolling, and we’ve also healed you up full. I know you are kind of a mercenary. So, what would you say this is worth to you? And know that we would keep doing this for you. You would have a home and people to fight alongside you.” he said
She thought on it for a bit and said, “As payment for what you’ve done, I’ll stay on as a Ranger Merc for 6 months, after that we’ll talk again as to if I’ll stay.”
“Sounds good. Your belt flag is in your bag next to your armor. You should stop by Uncle Ishvan’s, he’s our blacksmith. After that, when you feel up to it, I’ll show you to Guthrum. He is the Merc Elder. He’ll be the one to show you the ropes. Also, next month we will be storming Davin’s Reach. Welcome to the Rangers and welcome to Crow’s Landing.” He said this as he turned and walked out.
Not long after he left, she looked under the covers at where her wounds were. She was shocked to see not even scars. All she found was fresh pink skin. The healers did a great job and soon after she tried standing. As she got out of bed, she walked around to the other side to see her bag. She then saw her clothes from the road. Someone had washed them clean of the road and her blood. Grabbing them, she found an empty room and changed back into her clothes. Her mind kept thinking about how things had changed and if this was going to be the right choice. Picking up her broken chainmail again, she made her way out of the hospital. Once outside she was greeted to a bustling town. Everywhere she looked there were people moving around and they all seemed to be in a great mood. She then headed off into town. She had a new place to explore and armor to fix.